9 Tips to Clean and Maintain Your Typewriter
We’re often asked how to take care of a typewriter. How often should it be serviced by a professional? Which DIY cleaning products are best and where do you even begin when it comes to maintenance?
Here's our guide to nine things you can do right now - with minimum effort to keep your typewriter happy.
Gather essential tools: You will need a soft brush, plenty of clean rags, denatured alcohol, soft bristle toothbrush, soap solution. Optional: wax, polish.
1. Keep It Covered
Dust and debris can accumulate and cause problems for your typewriter's internal mechanisms. Cover your typewriter with a dust cover when not in use to ensure it stays clean and functioning properly. If you don't have a budget for a dust cover - just store it in it's case or alternatively throw a small cloth over it. Another option would be to store it in a closed display where it will be safe from dust.
2. Clean the Keys (Typebars)
Over time, the type bars on your typewriter can become dirty and sticky - as ink keeps pilling up in the crevices around letters. Use a toothpick to pick the dirt in the letters (also called 'type slugs'). Clean up with a clean, soft brush dampened with denatured alcohol (also called isopropyl or rubbing alcohol). For any sticky key - use the damp brush to get in between the typebars - work the key & repeat until it stops sticking.
For even better results, use mineral spirits (also called white spirit) to clean the metal typebars (always use precautions and proper ventilation if you are using mineral spirits). Do not use mineral spirits on paint or any other part of your typewriter - as it can damage it.
Pro tip: Make sure you are using alcohol which is at least 95% alcohol, to avoid water getting into your typewriter.2. Regular Cleaning Typebars are delicate, so be gentle when cleaning them to avoid bending them.
2. Regular cleaning
To clean the exterior, start with a soft brush and vacuum (optional) - to remove dust - also from under the keys.
To clean the exterior - start with a clean rag and dampen it with a mild soap and warm water solution. You will need some elbow grease! Use another clean cloth to dry the area. (Be careful around the decals or any labels as they come off easily.)
You can use Q-tips to clean hard-to-reach areas, like between the keys.
Pro tip: Use a can of compressed air to blow dust and debris out of the segment/keyboard's nooks and crannies. Don't get too aggressive, though—you don’t want to knock any loose screws or springs out!
4. Don't Over Oil
Typewriters may require very little oil to work properly, but over-oiling can cause problems such as gummed-up typebars. If needed, only apply a few drops of oil on the key contact points using a precise oiler.
5. Shining up
If you want to shine up your typewriter - you can use a wax. I recommend Microcrystalline Renaissance wax - it is museum quality, acid-free and best in protecting your typewriter. But you can also use Meguiar's or any other wax. Apply a small amount on a clean, dry cloth and rub on your typewriter. (Again - be careful around decals/labels).
Pro tip: Follow the instructions on the solution and be sure to test it on a small, inconspicuous area of the machine before applying it to the entire machine. Note: Crinkle paint was not made to shine, so do not apply solid wax on it but rather buy a liquid sealant wax that you can spray.
6. Cleaning chrome/nickel parts
The chrome or nickel plated parts will shine up very nicely if you use some rubbing alcohol or Flitz polish. You can use any other polish made for nickel/chrome.
Pro tip: Use fine steel wool to remove oxidation/tar.
7. Don't Use Water
Water can damage the interior of your typewriter, so it's important to avoid using it when cleaning. Use a dry cloth or proper water-free cleaning solution instead. If, for some reason, you used a water solution on your typewriter - make sure to dry it in the sun or by using a drier to avoid rust.
Pro tip: Typewriters should always be kept in a dry environment. Avoid placing your typewriter in damp or humid areas (such as your basement).
8. Keep your rubber grippy
The platen as well as the paper bail/feed rollers can be cleaned with a cloth and some alcohol. Just rub it into the rubber. You can repeat this once every 6-12 months.
Pro tip: Use a rubber rejuvenating solution to temporarily restore the rubber and regain grip. Do not use alcohol/rejuvenating solution on glossy/crinkle paint or plastic as it can discolour/damage it.
9. Give some love to your case
Vacuum the case and clean leather/plastic with a mild soap solution.
Pro tip: For textile - use special textile deodorizing sprays with enzymes that degrade the substances causing musty smells.
By following these nine tips, you can ensure that your typewriter stays in good condition, delivering crisp, clear, and flawless text for years to come.
And if you are still feeling like it's too much work - you can always look into ordering one of our special DIY maintenance kits which contain everything you need to clean your typewriter regularly & keep it running. Including bonus tips & an easy to read manual with a clear step-by-step guide. Also a great gift idea for other typewriter lovers.
Trust me - your typewriter will thank you! ;)